Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Living Girl

When my father was lean, and young,
with dark hair,
and strong tan arms,
we went to the beach as a family.

I don’t remember this.
This is a story I was told.
Like all stories, it has a beginning
This one goes:
When my father was lean, and young.

There were birds in the air, flying low
and lazy, waiting in sky like old
women waiting for a bus

and there were broken seashells to find
worn smooth by the water and sand rubbing together.
There was New Jersey food to eat,
with wet fingers dampened with water and
dusted with sand. We were a young family then,
in the predawn of the 80’s. This man, this woman
and their daughters.

My father lean and young
put my fat toddler feet in the water,
lifting and dipping
wave after wave
and sometimes I think I can remember;
can smell his skin,
mixed with the briny water I can taste
on my tongue,
can feel the water, just this side of warm,
frothy pools over the wet sand like a bed,
that I wanted to lay in,
the scratch of my father’s stubbly cheek
as my white baby hair catches on it.

I think I can remember but I cannot
the moment his hands were gone,
the water over my head and under my feet
the steady heartbeat of the undertow
the tumble tumble tumble of my body
the sound of my mother screaming
and then
the ocean said No, it wasn’t this hair,
these feet, those eyes that I was looking for.
The ocean spat me back out
and crawled farther down the beach
searching for the woman she needed to take.
She said,
Not yet, living girl,
someday, maybe soon, but
not this day.

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